David Balev
Move over Fortnite, Netflix is coming for your brand

As cable slowly slinks away, media companies everywhere invest in the trendiest accessory of 2021 — streaming services. However, as streaming services have been on the rise for several years, studios and companies alike now need to find new ways to give them an edge over their competitors. One way Netflix plans on adding value to their platform is with the development of free video games that are available with their members’ subscriptions. 

This week, Netflix released a letter from one of their shareholder meetings that stated they are in the “early stages of further expanding into games” and the free add ons will first be “primarily focused on games for mobile devices”. 

Integrating new types of content into streaming services is integral when standing up against the ever-rising competition. What once was a power struggle between Netflix and Hulu is now a vastly different market entirely as Apple Tv+, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount +, HBO MAX, Youtube, Peacock, Disney+ and many more have joined the chat. 

Furthermore, when almost everything can be found on the internet, add ons, original content, and quality control are the differences that sway people towards one service over the other. For example, Disney + offers 4K streaming automatically, while Netflix subscribers have to pay extra for the commodity. On the other hand, Netflix has created its own supply and demand for over 1,500 Netflix originals spanning into television and film content that cannot be seen anywhere else. As each streaming service has different content and a subscriber will rarely choose one over the other for a particular piece of media (especially since rights are signed away and changed so frequently) the differences truly lie in the add ons or simple name recognition. 

This Netflix building goes to show how large and influential a brand name can be which is especially important in an industry that is constantly increasing in competition. Source: Cameron Venti

Netflix’s venture into video games is said to be “another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation, and unscripted TV,” the shareholder letter said. “We’re excited as ever about our movies and TV series offering, and we expect a long runway of increasing investment and growth across all of our existing content categories, but since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”

Some of these games are said to be stand-alone fun, while I’m sure others will include characters or plot-lines from your favorite Netflix originals. They have also stated, “We don’t have to think about ads, we don’t have to think about in-game purchases or other monetization, we don’t have to think about per-title purchases. Really, we can do what we’ve been doing on the movie and series side, which is just hyper, laser-focused on delivering the most entertaining game experiences that we can.”

It is not clear when these games will become available to the public as it is a multi-year effort that is only beginning. However, there is some rustling in the trees as last week, Netflix hired Mike Verdu, a former Facebook and Electronic Arts executive as its Vice President of game development. Also, Netflix recently hired N’Jeri Eaton, the previous head of content for Apple Podcasts, as Netflix’s first head of podcasts.

These additions are exciting but not surprising as Netflix continues to be a leader in the competition surrounding ever-lucrative streaming services. 

Although Netflix does not seem to be bothered by other streaming services as they have said, “Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon or others, but on how we can improve our experience for our members,” it is impossible not to think about competition as years ago others were saying the same thing about Netflix when compared to cable television. 

This older television was once the new and exciting trendy piece of technology that everyone needed to have and has been phased out by flat screens and Iphones. Now streaming services compete to stay relevant as well as cable also becomes slowly phased out.

Furthermore, the onslaught of game development is not a new idea to Netflix as they raised their concerns about viewership in a 2019 shareholding meeting when they said, “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO”. It is also implied that the 2018 success of Netflix’s interactive experience of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch opened executives’ eyes to a category of untapped media that produces intrigue and revenue. 

Netflix may be a year or more away from fully developing their first games but, since storytelling is often one of the key factors in a successful video game, I’m sure it will be a success. Until the release of their new video games, I patiently (or not so patiently) am waiting to see what they have in store.